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A quiet, professorial type who relaxed by playing the piano, he managed to show the world the gentle side of the man who was the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer for nearly a quarter of a century.
The first German pope for some 1,000 years and the second non-Italian in a row, he travelled regularly, making about four foreign trips a year, but never managed to draw the oceanic crowds of his predecessor.
STRING OF SCANDALS
The child abuse scandals hounded most of his papacy. He ordered an official inquiry into abuse in Ireland, which led to the resignation of several bishops.
Scandal from a source much closer to home hit in 2012 when the pontiff’s butler, responsible for dressing him and bringing him meals, was found to be the source of leaked documents alleging corruption in the Vatican’s business dealings, causing an international furore.
He confronted his own country’s past when he visited the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
Calling himself “a son of Germany”, he prayed and asked why God was silent when 1.5 million victims, most of them Jews, died there during World War Two.
Ratzinger served in the Hitler Youth during World War Two when membership was compulsory. He was never a member of the Nazi party and his family opposed Adolf Hitler’s regime.
But his trip to Germany also prompted the first major crisis of his pontificate. In a university lecture he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying Islam had only brought evil to the world and that it was spread by the sword.
After protests that included attacks on churches in the Middle East and the killing of a nun in Somalia, the Pope later said he regretted any misunderstanding the speech caused.
In a move that was widely seen as conciliatory, in late 2006 he made a historic trip to predominantly Muslim Turkey and prayed in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque with a Turkish Mufti.
But months later, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami met the Pope and said wounds between Christians and Muslims were still “very deep” as a result of the Regensburg speech.